I am currently working through a zodiac series with the ultimate aim of it being made into a set for submission for honours with the Photographic Society of New Zealand. It has been on the drawing board for a long time. To make the series more particular I am trying to recruit models that are actually the star signs that I am shooting. I was therefore really pleased when I discovered that twins Evie and Emily happened to be Geminis.
They are both fashion designers who have designed a lingerie range so it was an easy pick to ask them to wear black and white outfits.
The costuming allowed me to play with the notion of a split personality (good vs evil), and we made use of the mirrors in the studio. Then it was an easy photoshop masking to bring the images together.
I also wanted to look at the notion of Yin-Yang and the costume colours fitted well with that. I had them lay on the floor and boomed the camera overhead, under a large umbrella.
I has originally planned for them to be on a fake grass and I was going to surround them with bushed to make it look like they were in the womb. Unfortunately the grass could not be found, and my efforts to cut them out and place them on a real grass background did not look convincing so I ended up scrubbing the idea and giving the image a lot of texture in post processing.
The final image has done very well. It received honours in a club competition, was selected in the North Shore Salon and appeared in the 2019 issue of New Zealand Camera.
After my shoot with Chris I had a little time before my final shot of the day, which was being held back in the Botanical Gardens. While I was scoping out locations I came across Sarah dressed as Princess Aurora, who was also waiting for her next shot.
Although not planned Sarah was willing to kills some time so we headed into the Begonia House and then onto the Japanese Garden.
I ended up shooting a time-lapse of Sarah spinning but it will not allow me to load it up here.
The second shoot on Day Two of the Wellington Cosplay Photofest was with Chris who was dressed in a full stormtrooper uniform from the Star Wars movies.
I had discussed with Chris doing two very different types of shoot with him. Initially we started with a serious style shot in the grounds of Parliament. As stormtroopers all look the same it meant that I could take multiple shots of Chris and then blend them together in Photoshop.
Chris drew quite a bit of attention to himself and with practically every shot we had people asking to take photos of him.
For the second part of the shoot I had had an idea of recreating a famous photo from the Vietnam War protests of the woman putting a flower in a soldier gun. I had arranged with a local pub for Chris to be photographed at the bar, and when we walked in he attracted a lot of attention from the patrons, especially a little girl dining with her family. I asked her if she would put a flower in the gun which she if somewhat hesitantly.
I had wanted to photograph the stormtrooper doing regular things, and by sheer chance as we passed the cathedral next to Parliament the choir was just coming out. Three of the choir members agreed to pose with Chris as well as taking selfies.
We ended up at a local supermarket for a shot I wanted with an ATM. It was hard work for Chris to walk in the suit but we were both really pleased with the shots I was able to get.
The second shoot on Day One of the Wellington Cosplay Photofest was with Briana who was dressed as Arrietty from “The secret world of Arrietty Ghibli” which she explained was an Japanese Anime series.
For the shoot we arranged to meet at the Botanical Gardens as I wanted to incorporate a Japanese look into some of the images. We started shooting in the Begonia House by the large lily pond. Fortunately the area was not too busy and I didn’t have too much trouble with other people.
I liked the reflections that I could see in the water so for a series of images I positioned the camera closer to the water to get the mirror image.
Part of Arrietty’s costume is a throwing hook and rope so we tried to get an image showing Briana using it. Getting the timing right on this this proved a lot harder than thought especially as the version that Briana had created did not have the full weight that a proper version would have. Therefore it did not pull the rope as well.
Still it was a great shoot and a good end to Day one.
At the end of 2018 I saw a Facebook post that invited photographers to take part in a weekend event being organised by members of the Wellington Cosplay community. Those selected would be paired with cosplayers and over the two days we would have four or five shoots.
I figured it would be a lot of fun, and so I applied and was accepted. The format was very similar to what I had been used to with the GTC collaborations except that once we were paired up we could arrange the time and place of the shoot.
When one of my original selections pulled out I was offered the opportunity to shoot with Hayley who was a special guest of the weekend and travelling from Sydney just to take part. She is a very experienced cosplayer and model which I knew but both make my job easier, but at the same time more difficult.
Now I have shot lots of models and costumes but cosplay was going to be different as I was dealing with a character that needed to occupy a world. Halley was outfitted as Battle Suit Cammy who is a street fighter. When I learned that it was obvious that the bunker at Palmers Head would be perfect.
The shoot with Hayley went very smoothly and it was a great start to what ended up being six shoots over the two days.
This is another post that is a little overdue in being completed, but is part of my New Year resolution to get more content on the site.
Each year the Photographic Society of New Zealand publishes a hard copy book that profiles images submitted from its members. The number of submissions always exceed the available space so it is quite an achievement to get an image selected. Each year the book includes a special section where your are asked to submit to a theme. The theme for the 2018 edition was “Kiwiana”.
For my overseas readers New Zealanders refer to themselves as “kiwis” (coming from our national bird and not the shorten version of kiwifruit). Kiwiana is a set of images that depict those things that we would instantly recognise as part of the culture.
When the theme was announced I know instantly what I wanted to submit. A classic Kiwi toy is a wooden pull-along called “Buzzy bee”, and our parliament building executive wing is called the Beehive. Therefore all I had to do was capturing buzz at the hive.
The process was relatively straight forward. I figured out the angle I wanted with the camera on a tripod and then shot a blank plate of the buildings. As I wanted the image reasonable in focus across a wide range the camera was set at f20. I had to take several images so i could remove the tourist who were milling around it.
I had originally planned to attach the bee to a cross pole by way of fishing nylon, but my wife rightly pointed out that this would be very hard to control. We therefore settled on clamping it underneath to the boom pole. She then proceeded to wave the bee round as I took multiple shots.
Once back at the office I downloaded the images and then went through and worked out which worked best. It was then a relative simple matter of loading the images into a stack in Photoshop and masking out what I didn’t want. As the images had all been shot in the same location this was a relatively simple process with the only area requiring more work was were the pole had attached to the bee.
Then to make the image more realistic I add shadows to the ground under the bees closest to the camera.
I had high hopes that the image would be selected and was really pleased that it was. That made the third image selected over the years for the publication.
Earlier this year I took part for the second year running in the Great Trentham Collaboration (GTC). This is a two day event that brings together designers, hair & makeup artists, models and photographers.
For my shoot with Kafleen McKenzie we wanted to go with a witchy theme so we chose a black dress designed by Deranged fashion, with a headpiece designed by Nicola Robinson. Eden Gibbons then created a very wild look with the makeup.
We started the shoot in the area under the stairs of the old grandstand using a mixture of ambient and flash light.
We then moved to a tangle of vines which created the first image above, but was a pain to extract from the tulle of the dress.
We finished up with a relatively simple shot in front of plain wall.
One of things that attracted me to the Lumix G9 was it’s very high shutter speed and high frame rate. While I was evaluating the camera I did a series of images freezing water at something like 1/2000 second.
Now that I had the camera I wanted to put it through it’s paces and see if I could create a milk dress. This is a relatively simple concept. Find a willing naked model. Thow milk on them taking lots of shots and then in photoshop merge them together to create a dress.
Traditionally the approach is to shoot inside in a studio using flash to freeze the action. The camera is set to the maximum sync speed and it is the shortness of the flash duration that achieves the result. This is effective but it means that you only get one image for each throw.
I wanted to do it completely different and shoot outside under natural light. This let me use a higher shutter speed and more importantly using the burst function meant that I could capture the entire throw.
A facebook post got me a willing model (Evie), a makeup artist (Ania) and two assistants (Peter & Nick), and the shot was set to kick up at 1:00pm.
Knowing that I would be dealing with the potential of harsh light I built a 2 metre x 2 metre scrim out of PVS piping and frost-cloth. All up it costs around $25. Then I bought a sheet of 4×5 metre black polythene that was used as the backdrop. Three pieces of timber were placed under it to create a small pond.
As Evie was going to be wearing heels, I placed a small piece of rubber under her feet so that she would not go through the material.
12 litres of milk was purchased and left in a chilly bin overnight. Several clips that I had seen had recommended that you warm the milk. We did not do that as the forecast temperature for the shoot was 27 degrees so I figured that cooler milk wold be refreshing.
I moved my mac to the garage and tethered the camera to it. This meant that the camera was well away from the mess, and also I could see the images coming off in greater detail. Panasonic has a very good tethering app that lets you have full control over the camera. This was good especially when I discovered that there is no support in Lightroom for tethering from the camera.
Shooting outside is always a challenge. While the day had no wind, cloud kept coming over and that meant that we had to boost ISO to maintain the shutter speeds I wanted.
I had developed a plan of how to place the milk starting from the top down. It took a little time to work out what the appropriate quantity of milk was.
We ended up shooting for around a hour getting around 500 photos. By this time the milk had got quite warm and was starting to smell. Evie was very grateful when I called the shoot to an end. We initially used the hose to wash her down before she headed to the shower.
Later that night I did a quick edit and picked the bets images and mashed them together. I will probably re-edit is later when I have more time.
Overall for a first effort I am reasonable pleased with the results.